According the St. Petersburg Times, an exercise in character development used in some Florida elementary schools included a task in which older students responded as Santa Claus to letters written by younger students at the school.
Thanks to character education, hundreds of students may have had their fantastic dreams of Old St. Nick shattered – after learning that he is borderline illiterate.
Since 1999, Florida has required schools to teach character development to elementary students, and has since expanded the requirement to middle and high schools.
Character development is, without question, a vital aspect of human development. But having it taught at school is further blurring the line between educating and parenting.
While it is horrible that not all children have competent or caring adults to raise them and assist in their character development, the school system and lawmakers need to remember that the responsibility of a school is to provide students with an education.
“It just makes sense that if there’s not inner turmoil in the classroom, kids are able to do a better job and concentrate on their schoolwork,” former Pinellas school official Claudia Hunter told the Times.
It is a valid argument, and Hunter’s organization, the Golden Rule Foundation, is doing well to ensure that students experience important aspects of community service. When they list the financial numbers from donors and the amount of projects deployed on dountoothers.net, they boast of the dramatic results.
But truly dramatic results would be altering the reality of Florida’s dismal graduation rates and atrociously high dropout rates.
It is horribly unfortunate that while planting a community garden or caring for your neighbor is important for social interaction, these things are unlikely to help students answer algebra questions on standardized tests.
We can’t argue that what is being done isn’t good, because it is. But it isn’t the state’s job. The Golden Rule Foundation is incredibly important, but as a non-profit, it could easily shift its grants and funding to work on extracurricular projects.
We usually argue that all students deserve access to a well-rounded education. That includes the arts in addition to math and science. The function of the school system should be to educate children and prepare them for the academic success., not to play mom and dad.
Florida has a hard enough time playing educator.